Sylvester (1985) is a PG rated formula sports story. Not only that, but it is about a less than thrill-a-minute sport, equestrian competition. As one character says, "It's called dressage. It's like watching cement set." Given that, why did I enjoy it so much? Hold that question.

Melissa Gilbert is a 16 year old orphan trying to raise her two young brothers, keep them away from child protective services, keep her boyfriend (Michael Schoeffling) at arms length but not chase him off, and learn to be a horse trainer. She works for curmudgeonly alcoholic Richard Farnsworth, who runs the local stockyard in Martha, Texas. She falls in love with a horse she names Sylvester, and dreams of training him, and becoming a famous trainer. For a girl with a lot of heart and natural talent, but very little experience, it will take the help of Farnsworth, who was in the cavalry and knows horse training, and everyone in Martha Texas to get where she wants to be.

Then there is the problem of Farnsworth's drinking, which reminds her too much of her dead father, the hired hand who tried to rape her, her boyfriend who wants to marry her as soon as possible, and the fact that she has picked prestigious national trials as her first event. As I already said it was a formula sports film, you already know that she succeeds, and everyone in the film finds redemption because of her efforts. So, again, why did I like it?

Well, right off the bat, it has an attempted rape of a minor (Gilbert) whose breasts are exposed during the rape, but was properly rated PG by a kinder, gentler MPAA, and even was nominated a Young Artist Award as a family movie. Yes, parents should be on hand to explain the rape attempt, but it was not at all gratuitous, and was treated exactly the way it should have, as a despicable act by a real creep. I can imagine the current generation MPAA rating of "R, for graphic rape of a minor, some violence and language."

A few seconds of breast exposure, however, would not be enough to overcome the formula plot. The simple answer to why I enjoyed this film was that I liked all of the characters. They were human, with human failings, and were very believably portrayed. In a genre that I think is usually aimed at naive adolescent girls, the girl and her horse story, they have created true family entertainment. Gilbert, in her first feature film, showed amazing range given her Little House training. IMDb readers say 5.2, but with a mean of 6.8. The 6.9 is more representative of the film appeal. It is much better than average given the genre, overcoming a trite formula story line. This is a C+.

  • Thumbnails

  • Melissa Gilbert (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

    Hi, y'all. I'm taking a mini-vacation. I'll still be digging up some other crap every day, and will chip in with some movies as well, but not with my usual volume of verbiage and such!

    The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004):

    The Assassination of Richard Nixon is a fictionalized version of a real-life story about a sad, wretched man named Sam Byck, an unemployed tire salesman who intended to kill Richard Nixon by hijacking an airliner and flying it into the White House. Byck shot and killed one of the pilots on the Delta flight, wounded another, then grabbed a nearby passenger and ordered her to "fly the plane". The airport police finally gunned Byck down through the closed door of a jetliner filled with passengers.

    Researchers found that Byck had revealed his entire plan in a tape recording he sent to news columnist Jack Anderson, that he had been arrested protesting in front of the White House in a Santa suit, and that the Secret Service had first identified him as a crackpot many years earlier when he had first threatened Nixon, whom he blamed for the fact that the SBA had denied him a loan. As the puzzle started to come together, it turned out that Byck had also sent bizarre tape recordings to various other public figures including Dr Jonas Salk and Leonard Bernstein. (Byck finished the Bernstein tape by singing the I Like to Live in America song from West Side Story.)

    The Assassination of Richard Nixon is a tragic film about a man who might have had a very decent life if he had simply stopped blaming people for his problems and just worked hard at trying to do a job well, any job. Because he blamed every personal failure on external circumstances and vague conspiracies, and because he was a truly strange man who was stressful to deal with, he was eventually written off by everyone who might have loved him, including his wife and his brother. His assassination attempt was just another example of Byck's bungling.  Obviously, his lunacy prevented him from seeing that a plane can't even get off the ground if one shoots the pilots, but what is more frightening is the fact that he might have succeeded with a hijacking if he had waited until the plane was aloft, then shot the co-pilot to demonstrate his willingness to kill. He probably would have been unable to get a pilot to fly into the White House, but he would undoubtedly have caused the deaths of everyone on that plane. Fortunately, he was incompetent, and the lives of all those passengers were spared.

    So, let me see if I understand this. Byck was an uneducated, humorless, divorced man with knee-jerk liberal beliefs and a hair trigger temper. He wrote naive, idealistic letters to public figures and over time he built up an irrational hatred for the President of the United States.

    Wow. How did they ever think of Sean Penn to play that role?

    Do you want to know the strangest thing about that casting? Although Penn is basically playing himself, Sam Byck is portrayed as a pathetic soul, a loser unable to take any responsibility for his own failures, and a man with some rather obvious symptoms of mental illness. I wonder if Penn is so lacking in self-insight that he can't see himself in this character. Astounding. Can anybody name another instance of an actor playing himself as a fool, other than in comedies? I can't think of a single one. Oh, sure, Bill Shatner and David Hasselhoff have built second careers entirely around making fun of themselves, but the key word there is "fun".

    Anyway, setting aside the curiosity of casting, this film is fundamentally Taxi Driver without the muscles. In fact, changing the real Sam Byck's name to Bicke for this movie seems to be a deliberate allusion to DeNiro's Taxi Driver character, Travis Bickle. Why else make that spelling change? The parallel between the two films is further reinforced by a scene in which Bicke talks to a mirror.

    The film, having no clear point nor entertainment value, is essentially just a character study -  a one man showcase for Sean Penn, as Taxi Driver was for DeNiro. Two very good actors, Don Cheadle (as Bicke's last friend) and Naomi Watts (as Bicke's wife), are completely wasted in repetitious one-note roles. The friend's entire role in The Assassination of Richard Nixon consists of repeating some variations on, "Let's just take it easy now," while Mrs. Bicke's entire role seems to be to find different ways to recoil from her creepy ex-husband without setting him off. One other performer (Jack Thompson) gets a much meatier role as Bicke's bullying boss.

    SIDEBAR: the voting and "user comments" at IMDb represent a sad example of how that particular site is vulnerable to insincere marketing and ballot-stuffing. In this case, IMDb's algebraic system caught the obvious "ballot stuffing" and reduced a padded score down to a reasonable number, but IMDb has no mechanism to prevent "comment stuffing." The entire comments section seems to be filled with obviously bogus praise expressed in the wild hyperbole of studio flacks: "Best film of the year", "the most moving film in years", and so forth. Upon close scrutiny, one discovers that these comments come from people who created accounts at IMDb just to comment on this film, and have never commented on any other film. So what do regular people really think about it? Well, the top 1000 voters at IMDb, film lovers who are not promoting an agenda, rate this film a mediocre 5.1 out of 10. Yahoo voters come in with a similar C+. Both of those scores indicate that it is a mediocre film, although perhaps one with some excellent attributes. I agree.

    • Unidentified stripper. This is strange. Although this is obviously a serious film, and not an exploitation flick, the director threw in a shot of Bicke getting a quick glimpse of a stripper through the open door of a strip club. This scene is completely unrelated to the central narrative, yet brings nothing additional to the film. It could be cut entirely, or it could be shown from the rear. In other words, this brief tit-shot is completely gratuitous.


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    In the encyclopedia are some shots of Mirijam Agischewa. If I'm not mistaken, this could be the same lady who is currently appearing on Fox TV "24" under the name Shohreh Aghdashloo (Dina Araz) I think, looking at the pics side by side, that it could be the same woman. The shots in the encyclopedia appear to be from a few years ago, but with a change in hair style and a slightly less severe look.... what do you think? (Too bad there are no shots available of Kim Raver!)
    As a last comment, I must say that the pics in the encyclopedia of Alberta Watson in The Sweet Hereafter, will make it a lot easier to handle her acerbic character on this year's 24 (Erin Driscoll)!  Thanks for having them available, she's got quite a body! You da man!
    Gentleman George






    Here are the latest movie reviews available at


    • The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
    • If there is a white asterisk, it means that there isn't any significant humor, but I inexplicably determined there might be something else of interest.
    • A blue asterisk indicates the review is written by Tuna (or Junior or Brainscan, or somebody else besides me)
    • If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too ashamed to admit it.

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    Crimson Ghost
    NOTE: We currently have to do all of our movie files in zip format. Instead of viewing them online, save the zip files to your hard drive in the directory of your choice, un-zip and play from there.

    Today from the Ghost...part one of his coverage of former heffer Ava Fabian (August '86) in various states of undress as she hosts the late night cable series "Erotic Confessions".

    • Ava Fabian, topless in every collage. Full frontal views in links 11 and 12. Brief pube sightings in links 13 and 17. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18)

    • Ava Fabian zipped .wmvs. Topless in all, full frontal in #5, all 3 B's in link #7 and a hint of pubes in #8. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

    Marisa Tomei Tomei in her undies, showing some serious pokies and getting felt up by Billy Zane in scenes from the 1994 romantic comedy "Only You".

    Nicole and Roxanne Frilot
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

    The Twins are topless as they get hosed down in scenes from the 'reality movie' "The Real Cancun" (2003).

    'Caps and comments by Dann:

    "Open Water"
    If you wake up in the morning thinking about the ending of the movie you've seen the night before, you've probably seen an excellent movie. Open Water is an excellent movie. Yes, seeing two people bobbing around in the ocean for over an hour sounds boring, and it should have been, but this 2003 drama manages to hold your interest throughout, and do it without CGI tricks or mechanical props.

    The plot is based on an actual incident in 1998 in Australia, where a married couple were left behind by their diving boat. In shark infested waters miles from land, the divers surface to find themselves alone with the fishies. Not all of these were friendly fishies.

    This was an independent film produced on a shoestring budget using unknown actors. No mechanical props or CGI was used. The sharks and other fish are real. The acting is excellent, believable and unforced. The ending is expected and yet surprising at the same time, and stays with you.

    In the movie, actor Daniel Travis points out that this kind of thing has happened a few times over the years. In fact, it happened in 2004 in the Miami area; two divers spent almost 24 hours in the open ocean after being left by their dive boat, before being rescued. I highly recommend this movie.

    Elizabeth Alvarez
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)

    Vejiita 'caps of the Mexican actress(and Mexican Big Brother contestant) in several bikini, lingerie and other partially revealing scenes from "Devil's Knight" (2003). Links 6-9 feature her topless while on top in a love scene, but it's dark and it appears that her nipples are still kept out of sight.

    Laura Antonelli
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)

    Señor Skin 'caps of the Italian babe showing off a beautiful and all natural body (the kind they just don't make any more). Here she is in a triple B performance from "Malizia" (1973).

    Pat Reeder
    Pat's comments in yellow...

    Appalling! - "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell is softening his image by appearing in an anti-fur ad for PETA. It shows him smiling and hugging a dog, with the caption, "If you wouldn't wear your dog, please don't wear fur."

  • Oddly, they picked the one person for this campaign who WOULD wear his dog.
  • Simon thinks that if anything should be skinned alive, it's William Hung.

    Nu-nu-nu-nu-nuts - A BBC reporter who snuck a hidden camera into a Kabbalah meeting in London reports that he was charged $1500 for a seat at a group dinner with Madonna and her husband Guy Ritchie, some "healing water" and some Aramaic texts he couldn't read. He was told if he drank the water and ran his hands over the texts, it would cure his cancer. He also said the dinner turned into a weird service with Madonna and the rest all facing east, pushing the air with their hands, and chanting "Cher-er-er-er-nobyl," to use the power of Kabbalah to drive the radiation out of Chernobyl.

  • That can't possibly work...They're way too far from Chernobyl.
  • Too late: the radiation has already killed their last few brain cells.

    Hilton Needs Redecorating - Tuesday, nasty designer Mr. Blackwell released his 45th annual Worst Dressed List. Counting down from #10, they are Anna Nicole Smith ("looks like a rag doll trapped in a wind machine"), Meryl Streep, Paula Abdul, Britney Spears ("a clothes encounter of the catastrophic kind"), Serena Williams, Paris Hilton, Courtney Love ("Medusa stuck in a meltdown mode"), (tie) Ashlee and Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan ("Overhyped and underdressed"), and at #1: Nicollette Sheridan. Blackwell said, "In barely-there bombs, she's a taste-free pain. Let's crown her the Tacky Temptress of Wisteria Lane!"

  • But she's not really a tacky bitch, she just plays one on TV...Sort of like Mr. Blackwell.
  • If she was angry, her face didn't show it.